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Themes

The children in "in Just-" are so innocent that they don’t even bother to be offended by the fact that their names are strung together in clumps of words. Only mature (or self-centered) folks would get concerned about things as silly as self-identity. Everything seems happy, but there may be danger on the horizon. Maybe the balloonman is only around to make children happy. Maybe he’s the signal, however, of a time when the children playing will be chasing after things they don’t need and can’t afford – just like the adults do. It’s a complicated world out there, kiddies. Balloonmen are just the beginning.

Questions About Innocence

  1. Is the balloonman innocent? Why or why not?
  2. Why do the children come running when he calls?
  3. Is youth the same thing as innocence in this poem? How can you tell?
  4. Why do you think the balloonman has so many adjectives tacked onto his description? Why do the children have none?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

By ending "in Just-" with a return to the balloonman’s whistle, Cummings suggests that the balloonman plays a central role in maintaining the innocence and joy of spring.

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